President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism campaign, including the use of drone strikes, is among the most popular policies of his administration.
An ABC-Washington Post poll released early this month revealed that 83 percent of Americans approve of the president’s use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists. [ See photos of U.S. Navy SEALs. ]
But during a discussion of Obama’s third year in office at the Heritage Foundation, some called Obama’s popular policy into question, saying it puts the United States at grave risk.
“I have come to suggest to you today that we should hold our applause on the drone campaign,” says former Bush staffer Marc A. Thiessen. “Drones are important for terrorists. They have a great psychological effect on the enemy. … All of that is good, but the problem is that Obama is using drone strikes for operations when terrorists can be captured and brought in for CIA interrogation.”
“Every drone strike that vaporizes an al Qaeda leader vaporizes all the intelligence in their brains,” he says.
Thiessen says Obama’s aggressive use of drones to fight terrorism has depleted the “treasure trove” of intelligence collected under George W. Bush’s administration. [Special Ops: Obama’s Election- Year Gamble.]
Thiessen argues Obama has made a critical error in dealing with terrorists by not capturing them and allowing the CIA to glean insightful information into al Qaeda. [ Debate Club: Should Special Operations Be Given More Autonomy? ]
Thiessen shared with the audience that during the Bush administration, after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a chief architect of the September 11 attacks, was apprehended and waterboarded, he gave CIA officials “graduate-level seminars” inside the recruiting and planning strategies of the terrorist organization for which he once belonged. Thiessen says the Bush administration thus had its own “al Qaeda management consultant.”
Thiessen points to Obama’s drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior recruiter and planner linked to homegrown terrorists like the Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as a lost opportunity.
“Think of the intelligence that was lost by killing that man,” Thiessen says. “He was killed under the direct order of Barack Obama, who made a strategic choice to blow up that intelligence.”
Thiessen argues that Obama uses the intelligence collected by the Bush administration daily and even says it was information CIA officials collected from three detainees in prison that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“He gets that credit, but left a very dangerous situation for his successor,” Thiessen says.